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Filters still matter!


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Filters still matter!

17 Mar 2021 7:21AM   Views : 468 Unique : 324


Black and white conversions are often troublesome: particularly if (like me) you donít terribly like working in editing software! I like short cuts, and the one that I use most is Nik Efex, which does a range of useful things, but the relevant one here is a wide range of conversions to black and white. So hereís a second run at the subject, from a slightly different angle


To fill in the backstory: with black-and-white film, we always used to use filters to emphasis or reduce contrast. So a red filter made a blue sky go dark, throwing the fluffy white clouds into relief. Orange and yellow filters gave gentler versions of the look: a green filter darkens skin tones a little, and lightens foliage.


Nik Efex offers a range of off-the-shelf colour filters in the Silver Efex module for mono conversions, just like those old-fashioned camera filters. A red filter lightens red objects in the image, and darkens blue. A blue filter does the opposite, and so gives extra grit to mono portraits of men by emphasising every broken blood vessel and spot. Very simple Ė almost intuitive if you remember what filters did on film (and still do, by the way!)


Itís more complex if you are using Elements, Photoshop or another editor: particularly Elements. You have to play with the saturation of the different channels (red, green, Blue and contrast), and someone said the numerical values need to add up to 200, which isnít helpful, as the values arenít displayed in the dialogue box Ė only if you hover over a cursor!


Photoshop is simpler than that, as there are more colours, the numbers are shown, and while pushing things too far gives really bizarre results, itís far more difficult to make the whole screen go black, though it is still far less instinctive for me, as a film user who knows a little about colour filters on the camera. They are still, just about, available, though they are hard to track down.

You can always just convert to grayscale, or desaturate Ė but you will almost certainly need to use Levels or Curves to restore decent contrast. When you look at a colour picture, colour contrast may give it a kick: in black and white, you almost always need the sparkle of white and some rich black shadows.


Robert51 set out a way to use Layers to give a sparkling B/W, but Elements 12 doesnít have a yellow slider or an exposure slider Ė I donít know if later versions have this feature. I am reminded, though, that there is still a way to get an older version of Nik Efex free Ė it has almost all the options that later versions have, and 99% of everything I do with it is catered for in that old version.


It harks back to a time when Google had bought it and didnít know what to do with it, so it was free for a while, before DxO bought the rights and started developing it again. You can still download this version from DxO by filling in a form, but note that it comes without any support. That doesnít stop it working, though!


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
17 Mar 2021 7:22AM
HERE is the DxO link.

The shot of Paige Antonia with her piano shows the difference between favouring red and green with the sliders in Elements. But Nik is far simpler as a concept and in practice...
Mrserenesunrise Avatar
17 Mar 2021 8:50AM
Hi John,
In my opinion you canít beat Nik Silver Efex for really easy creativity in Black and White.
Another great read BTW
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
17 Mar 2021 9:29AM
Cheers, Tim!

Really, I'm looking for answers for people on a tighter budget than yours or mine... I reckon that as long as the free Nik download functions, that's the simplest and all-round best answer...
af1 Avatar
af1 Plus
10 1 United Kingdom
17 Mar 2021 9:40AM
Interesting l know of Nix but l use Affinity Photo and achieve some good effects..
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
17 Mar 2021 10:33AM
I understand that Nik is a plugin for Affinity, though I've not managed to install it there, to date.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
17 Mar 2021 10:35AM
For anyone interested, the current edition of Nik is on offer at £90, down from £115 according to a flyer in my inbox 20 minutes ago.
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.5k 682 England
17 Mar 2021 10:40AM
I use the 'free' version of Nik but it does have it's drawbacks. Once you get used to the work around it's fine and has never let me down.
Don't know about Elements though as I use P/S CC

If you are using the 'free' version of Nik, then sometimes it crashes Photoshop.
There is however a fairly easy work around....

First duplicate your layer in P/S.
Go to filters>Nik
Open the image in Nik, at bottom left you will see the settings button.
Find the option "after clicking ok" and select "apply the filtered effect to the current layer"
It will stop Photoshop crashing.
PaulCox Avatar
17 Mar 2021 11:14AM
If you have an iPad with OS13 or newer, you can achieve quite a reasonable black and white by using the saturation slider on the right hand side of the screen. Paul.

mac Avatar
mac Plus
22 16 Scotland
17 Mar 2021 12:22PM
I find the Camera RAW filter in Photoshop does a straight conversion to B&W plus the Colour Mixer option gives you 8 different colours, which you can lighten and darken individually, once your image is converted. Great for making blue skies darker.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
17 Mar 2021 1:34PM
Thanks all - especially Janet for adding the work-around.
af1 Avatar
af1 Plus
10 1 United Kingdom
17 Mar 2021 2:44PM
John posted a IR for you notes the top leaves are almost white the others were in the shade and appeared black but this is in the filter effects programme on Pentax cameras..Regards ALAN
whatriveristhis Avatar
17 Mar 2021 2:46PM
I use the free version of NIK in Elements as a plugin, saving the filtered effect on its own layer... no problems at all. And that's with both Elements 10 and subsequently ( when I upgraded to OS Mojave on my Mac ) with Elements 2019. It seems odd that it works fine that way with Elements, but apparently crashes Photoshop. The NIK presets are fine "straight out of the box," but the extensive range of adjustments offered provide endless possibilities.

A method of achieving a quick but decent b&w conversion in Elements ( presumably also in PS ) that's much better than simply by desaturating is by using a gradient map layer. You can vary the balance of black and white in the image by moving a couple of sliders. A cheap and cheerful solution, but sometimes it's quite good enough... sometimes.
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
17 Mar 2021 3:58PM
I use Nik as there are a lot of presets to choose as a starting point as well as film types and adjusting the colouir response though most of the time it's the red and yellow colouir sliders that have the most effect. Then there's the toning, vignetting and adding grain...

Affinity has a good mono conversion function but I use Nik (plugin works a treat) as all the adjustments are in one place.
What I would say is that if you want to utilise the colour original with the mono create a duplicate Layer first (but that's just good practice to start with).
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
17 Mar 2021 4:59PM
Thanks, all, and especially Alan for posting THIS image in his portfolio.

I'm still unsure whether the Pentax effect is essentially the same as an Adobe 'IR' mono conversion, or whether it does more than that, though I very much suspect the former, as otherwise the camera would suffer from compromised colour rendition.

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